Saturday, April 27, 2013

BEST Brain-Training Apps for More FOCUS!

There is currently a great deal of buzz in educational circles about something called brain training. What is brain training? One definition for this term is “learning ways to increase your intelligence, memory, ability to think, etc.” (Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus, published by Cambridge University Press).

How does one go about “training a brain” in order to increase the ability to focus, think or improve other executive functions? Many current methods of brain training often involve the use of digital apps targeted to address one specific or a group of cognitive skills. These may be served up via iPads and other iOS platforms or Android and similar devices.

Some of these brain-training apps are scientifically validated with documented research and can actually offer genuine cognitive training and/or even remediation or improvement programs for such issues as ADD, ADHD and other challenges that affect cognitive ability. Other “brain-training” apps are provided for their educational or entertainment value only.

This week, we have gathered here numerous brain-training apps and lists of such apps that will also include information about their scientific validation (when available). We hope these resources will provide parents, teachers and other adults some viable options for significant brain training!

iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad Brain-Training Apps

Fit Brains Trainer-by Vivity Labs (FREE)
Updated: March 20, 2013
The #1 education app in 76 countries! Top-ranked brain trainer app with more than 20,000 ratings averaging 4.5 stars worldwide. The Fit Brains Trainer is a scientifically-designed app for iPhone and iPad that provides a collection of brain games, personalized training sessions, and visual tools to help you improve your brain's performance. The Trainer utilizes an innovative and adaptive learning system that automatically scales the level of each brain game to your appropriate level.

Lumosity Brain Trainer-by Lumos Labs, Inc.
(First 5 sessions FREE with subscription for remainder)
This brain training app from Lumosity is backed by solid scientific research by leading neuro-scientists from Stanford, UCSF and Berkeley universities.

CogniFit Brain Fitness-by CogniFit
Updated: April 16, 2013
CogniFit is a scientifically validated brain training app. Play different brain games to challenge your mind and train your cognitive skills like never before!

10 iPhone Apps that Boost Brain Function-by Become A Nanny
Posted : January 15, 2013 (Some apps are scientifically validated.)
Your iPhone may be able to actually boost your brainpower! These 10 apps are great brain-training apps that are purported to increase brain function, actually making you smarter!

Ansel & Clair: Triassic Dinosaurs-by Cognitive Kid, Inc. (Price: $1.99---for iPad)
All three apps in the Dinosaur Trilogy begin with Ansel & Clair visiting a modern dinosaur dig site. Meet paleontologist Dr. Lindy Bones, learn about cool fossil tools and then dig for fossils from the Triassic period. Travel back in time to meet Triassic dinosaurs and other creatures. Learn a variety of different concepts and contextual subjects including science, geography, geology, and of course zoology, without even realizing it. The first three Ansel & Clair apps have won 15 awards from prestigious parenting and product review organizations including the Parent’s Choice 2012 Silver Award Winner and others.(Researched and scientifically accurate)

Top 10 Brain Training Apps for iPad and iPhone-List by AppCrawler Beta (Price: FREE or $.99 each)
The 10 BEST brain-training apps from the reviews of 460 total apps ---Various developers (Some apps are scientifically validated.)

Android Brain-Training Apps

Brain Training---by QQ TSUBASA (FREE)
Find out your “brain age”. Simple yet addicting app that tests your “brain age” based on your game performance. (No information is available regarding scientific validation.)

Brain Training: Focus-by IT-EO (FREE)
Feeling out of focus? Want to improve your concentration skills? Train your brain with Brain Training: Focus! Focus is an addictive brain teaser game, where you match the Color of the word with it's name, while being mislead by your daily thinking habits. This app is based on a scientific discovery made by American psychologist John Ridley Stroop that demonstrates interference in attention.

Top Android Apps for the Brain-by ModernChakra (Lists provide both FREE and $ apps)
This article is actually a compilation of several short articles with different lists of brain-training apps. Obviously designed for mobility, these apps are great for keeping your brain sharp when you have a bit of free time. Take a few minutes and play some memory games, or reflex games---anything to keep your mind active and alert. (Some apps are scientifically validated.)

Top 10 Brain Training Apps for Android-List by AppCrawler Beta (Price: All are FREE)
The 10 BEST brain-training apps for Android devices from the reviews of 154 total apps---Various developers (No information is available regarding scientific validation.)

General Brain Training Program Lists from BrainGameReview (with Reviews)
Web page offering 3 categories with links to various types of brain-training programs:
1. A children’s section or product for general cognitive skills training
2. A list of brain training publishers offering K-12 cognitive training or ADHD remediation/improvement programs
3. A list of sites providing online games with an educational or entertainment focus. Most of these sites do not offer (or claim) any scientific validation behind their games.


Website with lists, links and reviews of brain-training apps

Brain-Training Tools for More Attention, Less Deficit-Article by Paul Gilbert (ADDitude Magazine)
These ADHD therapies offer fun and games with a serious purpose: increasing your child's focus.

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

NEW Helpful Resources for Dyslexia Challenges

As mentioned in last week’s blog article, we have been attending and presenting seminars at several educational conferences over the past several weeks. Last week was no exception, as we visited and briefly presented for a third time at the Patrick Henry Downtown Academy’s Parent Symposium here in St. Louis.

Just like attendees at the previous educational conferences, interested parents and teachers at the school expressed their concerns about struggling readers, asking questions about various reading challenges that included dyslexia. Some of the young students from the school were also present. These parents and teachers (and even some of the students) told us what it’s really like for some students who struggle to read just like conference attendees over the past several weeks had mentioned. The following are some of the reading symptoms described:

1. Eyes get tired when reading for just for a few minutes.
2. Florescent lights in the classroom seem to cause a glare and make it hard to focus, much less read and understand what is read.
3. Can’t focus on the line to be read. Eyes are all over the page.
4. My child loses his place all the time when he tries to read.
5. My daughter says that the letters on the page look like they are moving or waving.

With these symptoms described to us more than a few times, we shared information about the importance of comprehensive eye exams and the value of using our Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759). At the same time, we also provided literature that included tips and strategies to help challenged readers of all ages.

Finally, we thought this might be a good time to provide these parents and teachers as well as our readers here some new resources for symptoms like those listed. The descriptions above could be possible indications of dyslexia. However, dyslexia is a reading challenge for which accommodations are not provided in student IEPs (in most states). In fact, an IEP is not even provided for students with a singular diagnosis of dyslexia (again, in most states). At the same time, dyslexia is a reading challenge that can significantly impact one's self-esteem and overall success in life. As a result, we wanted to provide the following new resources we hope will be helpful to many:

New Resources for Dyslexia and Other Reading Challenges

Teaching Resources (from TES)
(Last updated on April 19, 2013)
Over 600,672 free teaching resources for dyslexia and other learning challenges to use in your classroom and school today. TES Teaching Resources is where teachers share and download free lesson plans, classroom resources, revision guides and curriculum worksheets. Whether you are looking for SEN teaching strategies and approaches, VCOP activities, or secondary classroom activities, you can choose from 1000s of teacher resources, download them for free and adapt them to suit your classroom activities.

Supporting Spelling (from TES)
(Last updated on October 11, 2012)
TES provides a selection of strategies and ideas to help your students improve their spelling. The range of free resources includes lesson plans and worksheets on mnemonics, spelling guides, games and strategies helpful for supporting pupils with dyslexia and moderate learning difficulties.

Understanding Dyslexia: Infographic---Visual diagram describing dyslexia from the WeAreTeachers Blog (Published April 03, 2013)

Top Tips to Start Supporting Students with Dyslexia (from TES)
This colorful diagram provides teachers and parents with strategies to use immediately with children and teens challenged with dyslexia.

OpenDyslexic---A new, open-sourced font created by Abelardo Gonzalez to increase readability for readers with dyslexia. The typeface includes regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic styles. It is being updated continually and improved based on input from dyslexic users. There are no restrictions on using OpenDyslexic outside of attribution.

Reading with COLOR---What a Difference It Can Make!
(Published March 10, 2013)

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of: Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Video Game Developer with Dyslexia Creates Interactive e-Book for Young Readers

It has been a busy week at Brennan Innovators after having participated in two educational conferences here in St. Louis. At these two events, we met with so many adults and children who described their symptoms and challenges with dyslexia.

Also during the past seven days, we have had the great privilege of interviewing an experienced and accomplished video game developer whose company is much in the news right now. Joe Booth is the Executive Producer and Creative Director of Vidya Gamer, LLC, a company that takes concepts used in making video games "to re-imagine learning.” Currently, Joe and his company are working diligently on a project that will incorporate the concepts learned in video game development and apply them to an exciting and uniquely interactive e-book for young readers. Joe Booth also is upfront about the fact that he has dyslexia.

Joe’s 25 years’ experience in traditional video game development includes work with major industry franchises such as FIFA, Need for Speed, Ghost Recon, and Rollercoaster Tycoon. Joe has held senior production and creative roles at Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft. While at Microsoft, Joe established Microsoft KODU as the leading game-based learning platform.

More recently, Joe founded Vidya Gamer in order to focus full time on transforming the games and learning space into a meaningful commercial sector. His clients include the Gates Foundation, Achieve3000, the Pearson Foundation and OutThink, Inc.

With all of these impressive achievements, you might be surprised to learn that Joe has dyslexia. As a young student, he struggled significantly with spelling, composing thoughts for writing, and had “bad handwriting.” His teachers attempted to help him with exercises and “remedial” spelling activities that provided no real assistance for Joe. In fact, this contributed to even more confusion about spelling and writing. At about age 11 or 12, Joe began to feel disengaged and started “skipping school.” It didn’t take long for this to become a chronic issue.

At the same time, Joe had always had significant strengths and talents in other areas. Math and science were subjects where he excelled, which is not unusual for individuals with dyslexia. During the summer of that same year, Joe’s parents bought him his first computer, which became the tool that would enable him to fully use his talents and gifts in a very productive way---making computer games. These games were “his thing”, and he began to teach himself how to program in order to create them himself. Amazingly, at age 15, a company offered him a contract to create a computer game for the marketplace.

In his 20s, Joe did not do much reading for leisure. During that time, he re-visited books attempted in his earlier years, such as Winnie the Pooh and Alice in Wonderland, and experienced some success. Then he read A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. This novel portrayed a character with dyslexia who used a piece of paper to help him read. Reading Irving's book and identifying with this dyslexic character was a turning point for Joe.

Joe Booth realized after reading this novel that he could use his strengths to solve problems. Even though he had always been challenged with spelling and writing, he could use his problem-solving skills and other talents while cutting and pasting letters and other symbols to write programming code for the creation of exciting video games.

Today, Joe and Vidya Gamer are putting all their efforts into developing an interactive e-book that will help provide more background knowledge for young readers while allowing them to interact with the digital text, creating a story with outcomes they choose. In taking on this project, Joe Booth and his company will be making a major contribution to literacy for young people. This e-book, written in the spirit of Indiana Jones and the Choose Your Own Adventure books, will engage its readers and involve them in the unfolding story.

Currently, they are in the final days of raising funds for this e-book development via To view the video about the e-book efforts or to contribute to this literacy project, just visit If funds manage to exceed the goal amount for the project, the extra funding will be used to reach the company’s “stretch goals”, which are to create additional versions of the book for different reading levels. A pledge of just $5 will allow a donor to receive a digital copy of this very first e-book from Vidya Gamer on the day of release (estimated delivery---May 2013).

Joe Booth has certainly demonstrated that even with the challenges of dyslexia, it is more than possible to use one’s other strengths and talents to manage some of the dyslexic symptoms and solve problems, especially while promoting and contributing to literacy. He believes the mention to others that one is affected with dyslexia "let's the pressure off" and allows one to be more able to function successfully. He also wants others to know that those with dyslexia are not unintelligent. In fact, many have unique gifts that enable them to compensate for the dyslexic symptoms. Joe's unique talents and gifts will certainly help young readers learn to love reading again. We want to wish all the best of success to Joe and Vidya Gamer, LLC with Codename: A FOR ADVENTURE!


National STEM Video Game Challenge

Kickstarter Campaign Page---For more info or to make a contribution to the Vidya Gamer e-book project

Company Website for Vidya Gamer, LLC

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Easy Tips for “Too Much Text!”

Focus Strategies for ADHD, Dyslexia & Other Issues

Is your child overwhelmed each time a new written assignment is due? Do you have one or more students in your classroom who can’t seem to finish a math worksheet---or any worksheet, for that matter? Well, perhaps the issue is not a lack of motivation, but in the fact that there is just too much printed text or content for them to process. So, what should you do to help?

This was one of the problems mentioned most often at a very recent educational conference we attended here in St. Louis. Again and again, we offered some simple tips to parents and teachers wanting to help children FOCUS and READ with more success.

This week in our blog article, we thought it might be a good idea to provide just a few of the ideas offered to those at the conference. These tips can make work much more manageable, especially for children and teens with AD/HD or dyslexia who sometimes say, “There’s just too much text!” We hope you’ll find them simple yet helpful for your child or students who need help with focusing and for those times when there is “just too much text.”

Focus and Reading Tips for Too Much Content

1. Fold worksheet into sections so only content needing immediate attention is visible.
-Fold so that only 1 paragraph/question/portion of the worksheet can be viewed at a time.
-With math worksheets, fold paper into fourths (or even eighths) so that only 2 problems (or even 1 problem) can be seen.
-When the content section has been read, question answered, or problem(s) completed, re-fold for the next section or problem(s), etc. until all work in the assignment has been completed.

2. Cut worksheet into meaningful sections.
-Cut worksheet so each cut section contains only 1 paragraph or 1 question.
-Cut math worksheets so each part will contain only 2 problems (or 1, if needed).
-Then, in sequential order, staple all sections together at the upper, right-hand corner.
-As each section is read or completed, tear off that section and set it aside. The student will feel like he is making progress with each “tear-off” and the sense of being overwhelmed will melt.

3. Use simple tools to help break up the content into manageable parts.
-Use a ruler placed below each line of text that is to be read. This will place emphasis on the reading matter needing immediate attention. Move the ruler down the page as each line is read.
-Use a piece of colored paper or cardstock to place under lines of content about to be read, covering all text or problems yet to be given attention. This will provide emphasis on what needs immediate attention.
-Use graph paper to properly align math problems into correct place holder columns.
-Use a customized, cut card or the Reading Focus Cards to isolate 1 or 2 lines of text and block out a significant amount of surrounding text. For some math problems, turn the card 90 degrees to isolate place holder columns, allowing only the one column of numbers needing to be added, etc. at the moment.

For information on customizable reading tools: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

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